Existing agricultural knowledge and statistics are spotty and unreliable in Africa – this despite the existence of official statistics agencies in most, if not all, African countries (housed either by national bureaus of statistics, National development planning commission, the national chamber of commerce, or within ministries of agriculture) with the responsibility to collect, manage, and make available reliable agricultural knowledge. This situation has substantially hampered efforts to ground agricultural planning and policymaking in evidence. The case poses a substantial challenge to CAADP-Malabo Indicators and the monitoring of progress towards the biennial targets of these indicators which is tracked through Biennial Reviews (BR) at country level. This situation also poses challenges in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Several significant institutional developments in recent years by FARA and partners provide a valuable foundation for an attempt to improve Africa’s agricultural knowledge, information and data capture and dissemination in Africa:
1. In 2017, FARA and partners took steps based on its many years of experience and feedback from over 40 NARIs to analyze and assess ways to improve the “Forum’s” information management and collaboration with our partners. The objectives were to enhance knowledge generation and networking processes and to work more efficiently with stakeholders. This preparation resulted in the development of the “FARADataInformS”. FARADataInformS is a component of the Observatory for the Science Agenda and Africa AR4D. The hub serves as a repository of relevant Science and Technology Indicators (STI) metrics at the country level that will serve as the basic resource from which various information products are derived. It is a web-based platform with analytical features built on open source. It uses (Application Programming Interface- APIs) to integrate data from relevant existing sources. FARADataInformS offers opportunities for individuals, Programme teams, regional, sub-regional and national partners to work more dynamically. It allows enhanced information and communication flows and the generation of relevant reports. Collaborators will be able to work more interactively. FARADataInformS will help position Africa Agriculture in relevant global platforms.
As an extension of the Africa Agricultural observatory and with initial support from the World Bank (MDTF) and now the EC DESiRA funding through the CAADP-XP4 Project, FARA is very well situated to work closely with the SROs and AFAAS and other relevant partners in the context of the CAADP XP4 to:
(i) Work towards the interoperability of frameworks, technologies, methodologies and operational synergies.
(ii) support countries in the adoption of new methodological standards in conducting integrated surveys on agriculture, adhering to context and global standards, and
(iii) Promote the integration, usability, and access to geospatial, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data sources while reducing the cost of data collection through methodological and technological innovation.
(iv) Promote the use of digital and ICT tools to make it possible to collect and manage information and data more accurately, more comprehensively, and more cost-efficiently than ever before.
2. Working through CAADP to scale up and strengthen agricultural knowledge and statistics in Africa have not made as much progress as might have been hoped. Renewed attention is needed through the CAADP-XP4 to boost the momentum of existing initiatives and arrangements. Some of the ongoing initiatives highlighted above could be catalytic in achieving these goals. A concerted and coordinated effort is needed across Africa to improve African agriculture knowledge capture.
3. In addition, building from past experiences in delivering on its mandate (eg. S3A roll out, etc); generating data, information and knowledge to the last mile (eg. PAEPARD, eRAILS, etc); networking and creating learning and sharing opportunities among all NARIs in Africa (Ministerial dialogues, Experts roundtables, policy dialogues, etc) as well as the expertise that has been developed among stakeholders within the NARES over the years, FARA and partners (AFAAS, CCARDESA, CORAF, ASARECA) are well-positioned to lead the operationalization of KM4AgD challenge for Africa with particular focus on AR4D institutions
4. As the continental body that coordinates agricultural research for development in Africa, FARA is a one stop-shop for technology, knowledge generation, networking, and information. In recent years, FARA has received several requests to mobilize and strengthen the collaboration of international and regional partners to enhance linkages of science with business. We consider this an opportunity to effectively engage with the private sector, strengthen technology adoption through commercialization of research products, and track the cross-border trade prospects that may arise from the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) agreement.
5. Operationalizing the Continental Data Capture Strategy (CDCS): FARA has led the CAADP-XP4 institutions to develop and validate a CDCS for Africa Agriculture. The development of the CDCS was based on analysis of current strategies, documents and systems, as well as interviews and workshops. The CDCS identified seven key recommendations to help ensure a sustainable knowledge capture programme. These are; (1) Continental Knowledge Development Goals, (2) Continental Knowledge Governance, Monitoring and Learning, (3) Continental Knowledge Products and Services, (4) Continental Knowledge Skills Programme, (5) Continental Knowledge Systems and Data Integration, (6) Continental Knowledge Communities (CoPs), and (7) Eight operational Knowledge Capturing processes. While developing a CDCS in 2020, the CAADP-XP4 partners established a collective agenda christened the “Akosombo Integration Agenda”. The agenda (included in the CDCS document) also outlined seven key areas of integration, including the integration of (1) Knowledge Management Approaches, (2) KM Tools, (3) Knowledge Resource, (4) KM Processes, (5) Communities, (6) KM Capacity Development and (7) Knowledge Ecosystems for AR4D.
Therefore, this activity seeks to operationalize the recommendations of the CDCS by generating content for FARADataInformS and other KI-Hubs of CAADP-XP4 Institutions, creating Communities of Practice and strengthening the Knowledge ecosystem by building the capacities of at least 25 KM country focal persons from at least 20 African Countries and generating key knowledge products such as the country KM brief, policy brief and profiles of KM capacities , through a set of sub-activities collectively referred to as the Knowledge Management for Agricultural Development (KM4AgD) Challenge.
The KM4AgD Challenge will be an integrated, strategic, educational and transformational long-term initiative to advance sustainable agricultural knowledge societies, linked with research to create scientific substance, evidence and outreach for Africa AR4D. The KM4AgD Challenge shall be a lighthouse project for knowledge-based development in AR4D in Africa. It will take place annually in a growing number of countries.
Finally, the KM4AgD Challenge will contribute to accelerating the achievements of existing FARA-led initiatives on innovation, futures and Capacities development including the Agricultural Research and Innovation Fellowship for Africa (ARIFA) and the Africa Foresight Academy (AFA).